We were pretty excited about the release of Through the Ages. We made post explaining most of those reasons why, take a look, and when this publishes TTA will dominate our front page. We're okay with that. All of that excitement has proven warranted after a few plays of the game. The app was delivered packed with features on top of a great implementation of one of the most loved board games of all time. In this post we're going to take a quick look at what's in the app and what we've liked about it thusfar. This is a huge game, so we might need some extra time to get our review out there, but we wanted to get some early impressions to our readers to give them an idea of what to expect.
The app is $9.99 both on the App Store and Google Play (check the links above to grab it). For that price, you get everything. There are no in-app purchases to consider and this isn't a sale price, it's the normal price for the app. The modes you get in the game are
- Local game vs. AI
- Pass & Play
- Online Play
It's a relatively short list at only four items, but there isn't anything more you could add. The local AI games allow you to choose from Easy/Medium/Hard AI opponents. I'd be lying if I said I was ready for anything other than Easy. Easy provides a challenge for beginners and if my luck is any indication, it will remain a challenge for some time.
Speaking of beginners, the game has a fantastic tutorial. It steps you through ten separate tutorials, all apart of the same tutorial game. None other than Vlaada Chvatil (the game designer) himself guides you through the majority of the tutorial. The tutorial is great with some humorous moments, including a nice dig at microtransaction games which has been a hit on Reddit already. As good as the tutorial is, it really does guide you through a LOT of the game, you probably won't be 100% prepared for a game if you have never played the physical version, which was the case for me. I know how to do things, but had little idea why to do them or what optimal (or even good) strategy looked like. This issue isn't unique to TTA, and I have to give a lot of credit for making such an engaging tutorial. The game also contains a rulebook.
The AI games are exactly what you would expect. It's the first place to jump after the tutorial, and essentially plays like the tutorial without the witty Leader banter. The Challenges mode contains 29 unique challenges to complete. There are nine different categories of challenges and they all have at least three difficulty levels. The first, easiest, is to "simply" beat the Easy AI in a two player game. Other variations include reducing costs, they get more complicated from there. I'm not overly familiar with the game, but I'm sure some of these variations add a lot of variety to the game. This mode will give people something to chase for quite a while.
Pass-and-Play is one I haven't tried yet, but there is an interesting twist that you get to pick which mode you play. The only one currently available is "Plain Mode" with "Car mode" and "Tabletop mode" listed as "Coming soon" with some funny, but not at all helpful, descriptions of what those modes will be. We'll be on the lookout for those.
Online play is also one I've avoided as well, mainly so I don't ruin other's fun by bringing an absolutely terrible player to the table. The mode has eight different timing options, ranging from Live Blitz (play as soon as it's your turn, a real-time game) to "Endless" (the ultimate asynchronous game), and everything in between. The game also introduces a Digital Rules version which switches around the order some events are evaluated in order to make asynchronous games a little smoother. I.e. you don't have to wait a full day for a player to make a really small decision. This is a welcome addition, in my book. I'm writing this on a Sunday night at nearly 11:00PM. The game tells me there are currently 76 players online. Not all games display numbers in the manner, but for a game that 1) costs $10 and 2) has only been out a few days, this is an extremely healthy number of players in my opinion. Don't worry about being stranded without anybody to play with in this app.
That's what is in the app, but how does it play? Well, that's a little tough for me to say without having played the physical game. I don't know how well bookkeeping is helped by the digital form, and I can't compare the two. What I can say is that the app does a great job of laying out everything you need to see at any given time. And it's also as simple as you could want to see what your opponents are doing in their civilization building. On a large phone the spacing of your buildings, wonders, etc... are all good enough to work well. As you get comfortable with the game you can perform most actions without zooming into the card level, but that option is always there. It is a nice balance of streamlining and leaving the fully card details accessible.
So, what's the early, one weekend verdict? It's everything you wanted/hoped/expected from this port. There have been reports of a few bugs are various points during the tutorial and also game crashes. I personally haven't seen any of these issues, but given CGE Digital's history, you can be assured they will get things fixed quickly. If you had any reservations about this one, I think it's safe to say the app is worth the price. The app features cover all the bases; challenging solo play, online play, pass-and-play. There are even a robust set of achievements you can unlock (86 of them, to be exact) if that's your style.